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Good morning everyone. I, Praveen Sharma, welcome you all on behalf of Interactive Media. Today, we are here with a very special guest. He is an international motivational speaker, a teacher by passion and a person who is behind making the well-known “Mumbai Dabbawalas” - world famous. We are here with Dr.PawanAggarwal who started his journey with Dabbawalas by publishing his thesis on the topic of – “Study of Logistics in Supply Chain Management of Mumbai Dabbawalas.

Hello Sir, I welcome you on behalf of CAclubindia & MBAclubindia!

Hi Praveen.thank you !!

The entire world knows about the Dabbawalas. You bring forward their now known as “Six Sigma Certified commendable Services”. My question to you is what inspired you to study their work?

First of all, thank you Mr. Praveen because this is another way, you are bringing these well-known people, well known work in front of the people all over the globe. I would say rather than what I brought them forward, it was my fortunate opportunity that I got this subject. It was 2001 when I was supposed to do some research. There were four subjects in front of me and among those 4 subjects, one was – Mumbai Dabbawala. My intention was to do something to bring their management skills in front of the people of the globe. Rather than PhD, I was interested in research and when I was knowing that, as I was born and brought up in Mumbai and I knew a little bit about the Dabbawalas. The subject was very good and even when I started to do research on this – very first day, I went to the Dabbawala office - President Mr.Raghunath D. Medge, Secretary Talekar  and their board of directors were there. When I reached, I told – I am Professor PawanAggarwal and I intend to do some research on this subject as Phd. They were shocked and were very happy to know that I am going to do Phd on their subject, their workings. They offered me a cup of tea.

After tea, they told me –“What do you want, Pawan Sir?”

I told – “Sir, I want your documents, this, that.

You will be surprised. They offered me the key of their office and they told from today onwards – Our office is your office and you can take anything that you want. And that thing just motivated me that if people think like this for an unknown person like me, how they are thinking for themselves. It was really motivating and from that day, I started my research journey. It took me 9 years to complete my research but it was a mind blowing experience. It was excellent and that’s what inspired me to do research on this subject.

Wonderful experience! So, this was your first one-to-one interaction with the President and the Dabbawalas family. To extend this conversation further, can you give some insight on the ethics and culture of the Dabbawalas. Also, what makes them so effective?

Very good question! Actually, when I deliver sessions all over the globe, I always appeal the audience – may be qualified, may be entrepreneur, may be students / teachers / doctors – whoever they may be; we cannot replicate the system of the Dabbawallas. We cannot replicate the nature of that work of Dabbawalas. But, we can replicate the ethics, values & culture; we can learn from them. You know that all over the globe, every individual (maynot be) but many people know – “Oh!! Dabawallas..they never make mistakes, they always deliver on time.” This true value system of their work makes them famous all over the globe. See, there is no mistake. It means, whatever they work, they do not do any error because what we believe is – “Error is horror. Don’t look into the mirror. It is danger.” It’s not good to do error. Normal practice of people is that we just casually say –“Oh yaar!!”Ok, this is only one error that I have done in my life. My dear friend, it’s a very simple error for you but the consequences for whom you are working – for him, it would be a big loss. So, you cannot say it’s a very simple mistake or it’s the only mistake for you.

That’s why our motto is – “First, 100% execution, not 99, not 99.99 – 100%”. The reason – we believe in our work – we are the masters, we may not be number 1, but we are masters. Now see, you are taking a simple interview but your interview should prove that yes, it was the master interview. You are not only good but you should prove yourself that yes – I am the best. So, that’s what is logistics of supply chain management.

Secondly, when we execute, we do not make any delivery that should be late- in time, on time.

Why? If you are excellent, if you are extraordinary but your performance is not timely, it will be useless. So, we know – it’s a lunch box – it’s not a dinner box. Even if we are going late, our customers will not get different lunch time – may be General Manager / Manager. Dabawallas know, it should be on time. If he is late, customer will not cook / eat food at home. It will get wasted. If he eats outside – he will waste both time and money in consequences of time and we believe it’s very simple to perform timely despite the fact that all tiffin services are delivered through local train. Local trains may not run on time.

When I asked in my research to one dabbawala – How can you deliver on time when trains don’t run on time?

This is what non-qualified man answered me – Sir, I am not a railway minister, and I cannot change train system. I can change my system.

So, what he does is as per the committed timing – he starts 20 or 30 minutes early always before time like today not presuming. Despite deciding at 11 o’clock, you are there at 10 o’clock.

Why? It’s our duty – whatever time we have committed; we should be before time not on time. And that’s why these values, we can inculcate in our own work – may be personal, professional or business life. That’s what I found, as far as work is concerned.

Wonderful to hear that Sir! So, what makes them so effective? I mean as you have shared some traits – the timely delivery, adapting the circumstances etc. But what is that one USP which makes them special which you can share with us?

Actually, when you start to work, you should feel – God has chosen you, this is the right work which you can perform best. Mr. Praveen should never think – “Oh! I am just taking an interview, I am just with the media. No, man! Because you deserve – you are selected / elected whatever, it may be, for this job. Dabawalla feel – Serving food is serving God. They feel proud. They don’t feel – Oh! I am working hard, I am carrying 90 kg, I am travelling crowded local train 60 – 70 km. No, they feel proud.

If you have heard, these are the people who are from the VarkariSampradaya. 96% people wear this chain. They are the devotees of Lord Vitthala. When they wear this chain – they never drink, never smoke, they never eat non-veg because they believe Lord Vitthala. Same thing they believe customers is God Vitthala because they go to customers home in the morning; customers would have already left in the early morning. When they go to deliver empty tiffin, customers are not at home, so who are there – mother / sister or wife. They feel it is not good to drink or smoke in front of family members. Because of this I think this feeling, they make themselves passionate to do this job with sheer feeling of joy.

Even you have answered one question of mine that I wanted to ask that what makes them so satisfied. Well, moving forward, I wanted to ask you what are the three lessons that every MBA or a budding professional can learn from Dabawalla?

1. Whenever you do work, the very important thing is that you must do it passionately. See, without passion, if you are working, you will get the work done but you may not get the satisfaction which you are supposed to. You are taking interview, I am delivering, it is passionatelydriven irrespective of what was intention behind this. I am sitting over here. I must talk passionately. So, every MBA, every professional should decide –yes, I am working passionately.

2. Money should be secondary. By God’s grace, everyone should get huge amount of money but it should be secondary because when you are working, you shouldn’t forget you are working for customer satisfaction. If I talk to MBA students – I would ask, for whom are you studying – Is it for teachers/ for parents? Till they complete their education, I believe their customers are their parents and teachers for whom they are studying. Like that professionals – they are working for customers. If they are professionals, they need to give 100% service. If you are a business man, you need to deliver 100% genuine product to customers. This is what is lacking sometimes at this place.

3. Very important is ownership. Any work you do not feel you are the owner, I think it is useless. Whatever the company you are representing, my dear, it is your job what you are doing as of today. So, if you feel, it’s mine, I should contribute 100%. Believe me, you will recognize, you will get satisfaction 100% till you will grow in your life – forget your company whether it will grow or not but you will grow.

This is what I always say to the professional people. These 3 things you should follow.

I got inspired hearing you out Sir. So, my next question is – we talk about being passionate but one of the important things which we have seen in India, that many a times people fall into a job which they really didn’t want to work initially or they have studied something but out of circumstances, they are doing some other job. But now because they have to get inspired for life, the question is – what prevents them to work hard towards life and their goals, what prevents them to get that success?

You mentioned that – they got into job which they were not supposed to or they didn’t intend to. See, this is not good psychology. I believe that whatever opportunity, you are getting, you should try to involve in this. You should create interest into it. See, God has not given selection of the people that you are supposed to do MBA or come into this media. It was not planned. I don’t believe. Your parents planned from childhood or you started to speak in front of mic or camera– nor like that. When you are growing, I think you got some opportunities, you might have thought something else but you may not get the opportunity and whenever you get the opportunity, you should try to involve 100%. The feeling of interest can be created.

People have multiple qualities. One quality I don’t think – ok, it is exceptionary. If you see the movie “TaareZameen Par”, in that the cases are exceptional. It cannot happen in every case. Majority of the cases, I don’t believe that it should happen. Ok, if you are interested in something and you are not getting the opportunity, it means 100% you are not capable of that. You should accept it, other people may not accept it. Other people may not say like this but internally I should accept it. Yes, I may not be capable or 100% deserving for that. That is why, this opportunity comes to me and I must start to take the interest. I believe that if you start to take the interest, you can do anything. As far as MBA is concerned, the youngsters have really mind boggling capacity. The problem is in this only – I was supposed to do this but I got involved in this. You cannot think of it.

Even I feel that (as you said) that they should create interest – I would also add that they can also diversify and can create other interests which they like along with the job that they are doing.

Certainly! Diversification proves better when you do it yourself.

What according to you is more important than a mere degree and if one wishes to be successful then what are the parameters of that success?

When we go to qualified people but those students who are in education, many students feel like this – Is it important to take degree or education? I say- “Yes. Degree is important, qualification is important.” Then somebody asked me- “How DhirubaiAmbani (a non-qualified man) became great the entrepreneur?” I replied –“My dear, don’t think of it. Those circumstances were different for him.” He was not able to get support to take the education. If this person would have been supported by somebody, he would have been one of the richest person in terms of education.Today, you are getting the support to take education so please take education. Now, you can become the entrepreneur because non-qualified and qualified entrepreneur makes a difference. But, degree is not the only qualification to achieve success. Degree is the support to get good success. Degree is some good behaviour to get success and for that purpose during education, you should work. I think it’s a very passionate message which is not possible now-a-days because your father might have worked hard in his childhood. But,Mr. Praveen, that is because your grandfather might not have had the support for your father. So, he ought to work. For you, father is your support. He is wishing – Mr. Praveen, you learn; you take the education; you work hard – I am there to support you. But, I think you people must be knowing many times when opportunity comes during education, you must work – may not be for money but socially I find now-a-days, many students want to work socially during their educational career. So, that motivates them. You should reach to those people who may not have facilities, amenities and observe them. I always ask the MBA students – Observe these people, the dabbawalas; they may not be qualified in terms of education but they are qualified in work. So, they have no educational qualification but they have work qualification because before entering into work – they practice, they learn from the masters – the present people. So, that is what we should do. We want to become entrepreneur or do some good job. I will always guide the students – you should try to learn that.

And finally hardwork. People do not want to do hard work. I am talking mainly of the youngsters. They want office jobs. Yes, you take office jobs but you must learn from grassroots. Students should learn at the grassroots. Chartered Accountants cannot do Audit without doing Accountancy or without knoing how accounts / transactions take place. Yes, he will be auditor, he must be entrepreneur but he must be a very good executive but before that, you must work like this. Now, today, you are taking interview – you know; I was observing you. You are guiding him – take this position, take that position. So, that you should learn. This is what youngsters should do. Honestly speaking, youngsters are not doing like this, they want to jump. It’s not possible.

Do you see hope in today’s young brigade that they will do good?

It will depend on you people because you, media people, are giving very good messages. I will really request and appeal you that the interviews which are good are giving messages to the youngsters to work hard. Please motivate them. Because I can motivate many people but with these interviews, you can motivate lakhs and crores of students / people.

Even now, I am very sure that many CA students / MBA students would definitely get motivated after watching this interview.

Now, you just talked about students, I think after one week, I am going to deliver for 3000 CA students. When students come to me, they say that institute is not giving good result. They declare only 5% result. So, that is why I get failed. It’s surprising why that student counting himself in 95%. Why don’t you count yourself in 5%. I agree, sometimes some system may not support your effort but you should work continuously. So, continuous efforts are very important.

True! And instead of finding someone to blame upon, you can take the responsibility and work hard.

Absolutely right! And for that, CA/MBA students should take the passion.

True Sir! Now, coming to logistics and supply chain, what should today’s e-commerce companies learn from the Dabbawalas?

Very good question! For e.g: if you talk about Amazon / Flipkartetc; now-a-days, it’s very easy to bring a product into market. It is very easy for you to take my interview but it would take a lot of effort for you to make this interview reach to a lot of people. Same thing goes for e-commerce. They are not finding good people who can deliver their product to the customers and that too timely& economically.

I am doing another research on paperwallas who deliver newspapers in Mumbai. Dabbawalas are 5000 in number,paperwallas are 50,000 in number in Mumbai. So, these people perform their duties timely, believe me, economically cheaper also. When I asked one dabbawala, “Why did you charg so less?” (They charge 600 per month, it comes Rs. 20-21 per day.)The courier man takes Rs. 35 to deliver small envelope. The dabbawala carries the whole tiffin and charges Rs.20-21 and that too with return journey. What he answered me, Sir, who are my customers – my customers are those who feel it is costly outside, they want home cooked food. So, I should charge less. If I charge them more, they would be dissatisfied with my services. This feeling should be there. So, e-commerce people should think of it, how they can reasonably deliver their products to the customers. I think in future, many people will ask me whether dabbawalas will continue for long time. I believe that the importance of the dabbawalas will go on increasing in future because of e-commerce business. They require delivery people. Customers do not come to the shop. Shop goes to the customers and that shop is this mobile shop.

Following this same thought, my next question is that - I was wondering, whenever we talk about the dabbawalas, we have seen that they are Mumbai dabbawalas. Why dabbawalas couldn’t or cannot expand? And if they can, can we see in future,dabbawalas in all the metros? or how exactly they can transform as you said in e-commerce probably? So, what are your thoughts, towards expansion specially?

Actually, why it is Mumbai Dabbawalas because if you see all over India, Mumbai is the only city geographically where our Mumbai local trains have straight railway paths, even roads. So, it covers wide area – 70 to 80 km. So, in Mumbai, when we want to reach office it takes 3 to 4 hours journey from home to workplace. Suppose you start in the morning at 6 o’clock, then you will reach by 9 o’clock. If you want to carry your own tiffin, your wife should prepare food for you at 5 o’clock. In Mumbai, husband doesn’t allow their wives to cook food at 5 o’clock – husbands love their wife. He wants- my wife should get up by 8 o’clock – no problem. Husbands starts at 6 o’clock, wife cooks at 8 o’clock, dabbawalas comes at 9 o’clock to collect the tiffin.

In Mumbai, local train, when you travel as a customer (as an individual person) you don’t have both the hands free. You cannot carry your tiffin so dabbawala carries it for you. If you take note of other cities, it’s not happening. In other cities, take the matter of Delhi, there is no straight route for metro trains. In metro train, until & unless you fill the train completely, the metro won’t start. In Mumbai, it doesn’t happen. The time is fixed. After 30 seconds, it will start, whether you board or not. So, in these circumstances, it needs Dabbawala. Secondly, overcrowded local trains. In Mumbai also, we have monorail metro trains. But, dabbawala cannot travel with mono and metro because dabbawala can only travel in luggage compartment and local train is the only train where we have luggage compartment. So, they cannot travel. In other cities, you have metro trains not local trains. So, that is the reason why they cannot replicate in the other cities. Third reason, Mumbai is Mumbai. So, I think because of that there are mass people. I think economic statistics shows that more than 60 lakhs people travel everyday with more than 5000 train trips every day. That’s why, it cannot replicate in other cities. Delhi dabbawalas are there but somebody deliver hardly 10 or 20 like this – not with this supply chain like that of Mumbai Dabbawalas. Moreover, they are not interested into opening franchisee in other cities because of the culture, life-style, residence facilities, many things are there. So, it’s a bit difficult for them, but if they think of it, in future it is possible (may be) because expansion is required, increase in income is required. So, it is very important.

And also, the world-famous dabbawala’s legacy should continue!

Exactly!Very important word “legacy”. Legacy should continue.

Finally in the end, I would request you to give some message to our members, professionals, whether it is a CA or a Lawyer or a MBA student- what would be your message for our members?

The message is this – When you are doing any service, you should try to give some added-value. I can add this –Dabbawala gives delivery of food which is home cooked food. But, what they do additionally? Suppose, in the morning, you start at 6 o’clock, if you forget your mobile, at 9 o’clock, your wife will put mobile in your tiffin and dabbawala will deliver in your office. When you get salary, in Mumbai you are afraid of keeping your salary in your pocket. What you do – when you get salary, after eating food, you put your salary in the empty tiffin and dabbawala delivers safely in the hands of your wife. What it is called is– customer faith – very important. Third example, whenever you give services to customers, you must give services consistently. I believe, one or the other day, some customer will believe in God for him. If you take interview of 100 people, I think one interview of you which you have shown to people, I think that may change somebody’s life. You don’t know whose life will change with whose interview. You don’t know that. This is happening in Dabbawala’s case.

What happens? Sometimes customers dispute and fight with his wife. So, what happens that angry young man Indian husband, when they fight, the husband tells wife, I will not come and with this the angry young man went to the office. But when the dabawalla comes home, Indian wives, they are very gem of the gem. When she gives tiffin to the dabbawalla, dabbawalla delivers it in office but when in office at lunch time, husband saw the tiffin, morning angry young man become the hungry young man. So, when he opens the tiffin, on top of the tiffin, the husband saw love letter from wife –“I love you, please eat my food.” What husband does, after eating food, he does the same with his wife and in the evening they meet and come together.

It’s something like the movie Lunch Box.

Exactly. This is what happens. Dabbawala doesn’t know what is happening but because of consistent services, it happens that you give something extra-ordinary, just casually which can change their lifeline.

That last line is actually very important that “it’s not the service only but that one extra thing which they are getting emotionally is what matters them the most and what makes the dabbawalas so special.

So, that is what I appeal to every individual, every corporate, every group, every association to try to think of it what we can give in addition. It means what we have committed that should be 100%, something more you should give.

Thank you Dr.Pawan. It was really insightful and inspiring conversation. I, once again, thank you on behalf of Interactive Media and all our members for sharing your thoughts with us.

I also thank you and I pray to almighty god that Interactive Media should go on interacting with a number of people and continue giving important, helpful & inspiring messages to our beautiful country.

Thank you Sir !!

Thank you.


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